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Sex And The Science

Give me the overview

Popular author Naomi Wolf may have published some questionable science in her latest book "The Vagina and the Brain" but she was definitely onto something. Scientists have now shown how increasing the frequency couples have sex can help to increase fertility, and not only for the obvious reasons. Having sex whilst the woman is not ovulating may seem a somewhat futile activity, especially if your eyes are directly on that baby prize.  However sex leaves us feeling good, these feelings (endorphins) can permeate deep into our psyche, helping to diminish the feelings of anguish and stress that can contribute to infertility.

 

You have my attention – what about the details?

First, the region of your brain responsible for sensation in the genitalia is acivated; this same region responds in an excited fashion to nipple stimulation. The next region of your brain to recieve neuronal attention is called the insula. The insula is an area known to be active in both the pain response and the pleasure response (it is just active in different

ways – inhibitory vs stimulatory). During orgasm and sexual pleasure, the insula is responding in a process way rather than a preventative way, making us less sensative to mental and physical pain.  The next stage of pleasure involves the anterior cingulate, an area related to the insula. This helps transfer pleasure signals to the amygdala. The amygdala is thought to help provide the intense positive emotions typically experienced during orgasm.  After the amygdala has been brought into the mix, the hippocampus, a memory processing unit, is activated, potentially bringing an element of fantasy or just helping record the experience. The hippocampus is also able to activate many brain regions at once and this multi-region activation underlies the hippocamal role in the orgasm process.  As a woman reaches climax the brain region involved in movement and muscle tension is stimulated quickly followed by the hypothalamus, a region which among many of its roles is responsible for the release of oxytocin – the hormone most famed for its role in social and emotional bonding. The final part of the lovemaking journey is the pleasure centre – for that peak love-making sensation involving dopamine release in the nucleus accumbens.

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